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A hard rain's gonna fall

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He may mumble incoherently and swear a blue streak. He may have slaughtered "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." And his kids may be a little mouthy.

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Still, there's no denying that Ozzy Osbourne remains the high priest of everything heavy metal, and news of a new album rings in my ears as angelic "hosannas" — make that demonic power chords. On May 22, Black Rain is gonna fall, with a deluge of massive riffs no doubt. It's Osbourne's first solo album in six years. To hear samples of tracks from it, fans can log onto

Backed by his touring band, a unit that includes Zakk Wylde on guitar, Mike Bordin on drums and Blasko on bass, Ozzy sounds as heavy as ever, like he's been listening to Slayer or something. The mood is maybe even a tad more gloomy and menacing than past efforts, with songs about drug abuse (something he knows a lot about), human savagery, and environmental cataclysms.

What hits you immediately is Wylde's blizzard of riffs, so powerful and thick that you feel like the floor of heaven is giving way. This isn't a sludgy re-hashing of the Black Sabbath catalog, or a return to the notes-per-nanosecond guitar work of Randy Rhoads years of Diary Of A Madman or Blizzard Of Ozz. This is a whole new beast, one with its head still attached to its shoulders. One that's making spot-on social and political commentary, giving hope to masses of people worn down by violence and evil ("Civilize The Universe") and crushing you with its sheer sonic force of will.

And as big a deal as Black Rain is, news of it gets pushed to the back page by word that Ozzy is making OZZFEST entirely free. You heard right, people. It's free. Ozzy's world tour starts in Moscow, of all places, on May 27 and ends July 6, after which Ozzy will hit North America like a falling anvil. His North American tour begins July 12 in Seattle.

So, what to make of all this? Is this the work of a reputed Satanist, who's been villified by animal rights activists and uptight parents? No, this is the real Ozzy. He's not an ogre. He's not going to recruit your children for the devil's pleasure. If you've ever heard him talk — and contrary to popular belief, he can be coherent — Ozzy is a sweetheart, a Beatles lover at heart who wishes goodwill to everyone. And really, if he loves the Beatles, how dangerous and sinister can he be?

Here's to Ozzy: may your dogs stop defecating on your living room carpet and may Sharon cater to every whim.

Young Galaxy, old souls

Here's a tip on a great new release: Young Galaxy's self-titled debut on the Arts and Crafts label. An amazing album that will be reviewed in a future issue of Goldmine, and is due for release April 24, this is a record of incredible beauty and ambition.

Made specially for lovers of romantic space-pop, Young Galaxy's auspicious first album is the aural equivalent of sleepwalking in a planetarium or an ultra-modern city, and accidently colliding with the person you're meant to spend the rest of your life with. Spacious and sprawling sonic landscapes are the order of the way, giving listeners room to wander about and be transfixed by their depth and variety of textures. The vaporous "The Sun's Coming Up And My Plane Is Going Down" is a marvel of sonic architecture, an affecting meditation on fighting depression and living life to its fullest. And "Searchlight" is one of those great pop songs you can't get out of your head, bittersweet and bouyant, with gorgeous vocals and sweeping instrumentation.

I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

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